Physics concerns itself with the deduction and establishment of the principles which underlie the observable phenomena of the physical universe. If your scientific curiosity has led you to consider a career in physics, the Physics Department at Saint Michael's College offers a very competitive program that prepares you for graduate study, industry or teaching.

Physics majors are given office space in the Cheray Science Hall providing a home base in which to study as well as interact with professors and other students in the department. Our small classes allow the faculty to work closely with you to provide a personalized education.

As a physics major or minor, you will begin with the study of the fundamentals of how nature works:  motion, energy, electrodynamics, and thermodynamics.  From there, a tour of modern physics, establishing the need for the study of the quantum world and Einstein’s theories of relativity.  Physics majors take traditional mathematics courses essential to the field, along with a course on mathematical physics, which serves as a foundation to the Junior and Senior years.  In these years, the advanced treatment of concepts in physics is explored:  Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory, Thermal Physics, Quantum Mechanics, and an Advanced Laboratory course.  Additionally, majors can choose from a number of electives:  Astrophysics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Computational Physics, and more.  Each major, in both their junior and senior year, participates in the Physics Seminar series, where students pick a topic to explore in detail and then present to their peers.  Since some of our students begin their major in their sophomore year, our curriculum allows for students to complete the major in three years.  Nearly all Physics majors have an additional minor, and many have a second major.

Our department faculty are active teacher-scholars, with research experience in theory and experiment.  We frequently bring students into our research programs via internal and external funding, and encourage them to present their work at national and regional conferences.  Many students use the junior seminar as a prelude to a summer research internship at other universities through the NSF REU program or at national labs and centers.  Students can participate in the SMC chapter of the Society for Physics Students and can operate the telescopes at the Holcomb Observatory on campus.  Physics majors also have the opportunity to work as a laboratory assistant or peer tutor.

Sample Four Year Plan for Physics Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
PY 210 College Physics I PY 211 College Physics II 
MA 150 Calculus I  MA 160 Calculus II
First Year Seminar Liberal Studies course
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Fall Spring
PY 214 Modern Physics PY 217 Mathematical Physics
MA 211 Calculus III MA 303 Differential Equations
Fall Spring
PY 302 Electricity and Magnetism PY 309 Advanced Lab
PY 310 Physics Junior Seminar I PY 311 Physics Junior Seminar II
Physics elective PY 315 Classical Mechanics
Fall Spring
PY 410 Physics Senior Seminar I  PY 411 Physics Senior Seminar I 
PY 414 Quantum Mechanics PY 407 Thermal Physics
Electives Electives

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

Alain Brizard, PhD

Physics Department Chair, Professor of Physics

Contact Professor Brizard

Cheray Hall 110A
Box 254
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Ph.D. Princeton University
M.Sc. Quebec University
B.Sc. Sherbrooke University

Areas of Expertise:

Space, fusion and astrophysical plasma physics, astrophysics and cosmology (theoretical physics).

Patricia Bunt, PhD

Instructor of Physics

Contact Professor Bunt

Cheray Hall 114
Box 254
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B.S. Clarkson University
Ph.D. University of Vermont

Dr. Bunt's research interest is in the field of astronomy.

William Karstens, PhD

Professor of Physics

Contact Professor Karstens

Cheray Hall 112
Box 254
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Ph.D. University of Vermont
M.A. Brandeis University
B.S. University of Vermont

Areas of Expertise:

Condensed matter physics, optical properties.

Our alumni have found success in research, industry, and education. Recent Physics graduates are employed at firms including:

  • Lockheed-Martin
  • B.F. Goodrich Aerospace
  • Microsoft
  • Biogen Idec
  • Ingersoll-Rand

and a variety of schools and colleges including:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Rochester

Graduate Study

Recent Physics graduates have gone on to graduate programs at:

  • Brandeis
  • Boston University
  • Notre Dame
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Utah


The Academic Internship Program at Saint Michael's is an experience whereby students, participating employers and the College enter into a partnership designed to give students career-related, pre-professional work by fulfilling academically meaningful work assignments for their employers. Internships are supervised work experiences in both the public and private sectors. They are designed to enhance and supplement formal education and promote personal and career development.

Physics majors at Saint Michael's have done internships with the National Weather Service, the University of Vermont Biophysics Lab, and the State of Vermont Forensics lab.


Student participation in research activities is encouraged and a number of our students have taken advantage of on-campus student/faculty research activities, off-campus internships and National Science Foundation-sponsored programs such as Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) during the summer. Research interests of the faculty include:

  • space
  • fusion and astrophysical plasma physics
  • optical properties of condensed-matter systems
  • high energy physics and cosmology

Current and prospective undergraduate research students in the natural sciences, math, and engineering can find research opportunities at

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